A family I know is going for adoption on a little fella they have been fostering. He is so little and new to the world and this family has taken him in and have a fight in front of them to win the day. This made me think on my family’s fight to save one. It made me think on the reason we do such things.
Adoption is an idea we know of or, perhaps, know about very intimately. Adoption, as a concept, has been around for a long time. People have recognized the need to take children without parents and give them a home and a family.
However, the word used in the Bible to capture this gracious idea is itself an amazing thing. The word “adoption” has it’s origination with the Apostle Paul in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians. Consider this excerpt from my Greek Lexicon:
υἱοθεσία huiothesía; gen. huiothesías, fem. noun from huiós (5207), son, and títhēmi (5087), to place. Adoption, receiving into the relationship of a child. In the NT, figuratively meaning adoption, sonship, spoken of the state of those whom God through Christ adopts as His sons and thus makes heirs of His covenanted salvation. See huiós (5207) II, B. Of the true Israel, the spiritual descendants of Abraham (Rom. 9:4 [cf. 6, 7]), especially of Christians, the followers of the Lord Jesus (elsewhere called huioí toú Theoú , of God (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26 [cf. John 1:12]).
Huiothesía is a technical term used only by Paul five times (Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). The word is not found in classical writers although thetós huiós (thetós [n.f.], placed, set, adopted) is used for an adopted son. Paul in these passages is alluding to a Greek and Roman custom rather than a Hebrew one. Since huiothesía was a technical term in Roman law for an act that had specific legal and social effects, there is much probability that Paul had some reference to that in his use of the word. Adoption, when thus legally performed, put a man in every respect in the position of a son by birth to him who had adopted him, so that he possessed the same rights and owed the same obligations. Being a huiós, a son, involves the conformity of the child that has the life of God in him to the image, purposes, and interests of God and that spiritual family into which he is born. In eternity there will be a revelation by God which will indicate the measure of this conformity to God (Rom. 8:19).1 (see footnote below for the source)
OK, I know that what you just read through was, literally, Greek, however the explanation is vital to our understanding of what Paul is getting at in Romans 8:15, 8:23, 9:4, Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5. Read each of these passages being careful to set them in their proper contexts and think on what is being communicated about our status.
This is a precious reality to me personally. Paul has spent so much time unpacking the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Romans up to this point and he is speaking of the fact that there is NO condemnation for those who are in Jesus by the work of the Spirit. As a result of this work we are no longer at war with God, rather we have peace with him through the work of Jesus (Romans 5:1).
Then Paul pulls out this word he makes up to capture the work of God for us in the Gospel taken from the idea of taking a child not one’s own and making them their child. ADOPTION.
Paul makes up this word that we still use today in describing what happens when a child is taken into a home and made one of the family to describe what Jesus does for us when he saves us. He adopts us!
We were not his. We were at war with him and there was no peace. But God, being rich in mercy, took us when we did not look like him, act like him or represent him well at all and he made us his children through the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you have believed the Gospel and repented of sin you have been adopted by God himself and made his kid!
You and I are children of God, and Paul’s word is still used by Christians and non-Christians alike in description of taking a child not your own and making them your own.
Every time a child is “adopted” whether by Christians or non-Christians they are taking Paul’s word to describe the result of the Gospel on us, his people.
You and I don’t look like, act like or represent Jesus well at all, but he, being good, takes us and gives us his name and counts us as his own because of Jesus’ work on the cross.
Every morning when my baby boy scurries into the living room and snuggles up to me while I’m sipping on my coffee and reading my bible and I look down at that dark brown skin I am reminded of what it must be like for me to call on the Lord in prayer. Daniel does not look like me, he often does not act like me and sometimes he does not carry the Jolly name well, but his name is Jolly and his legal records point to the fact that he is my baby boy. Every time I look at him I’m reminded that this is what Jesus did for me. He took me and made me his son and gave me his name so that I would be called his.
You see, there is one God, and his name is Jesus. Our first parents rebelled and we incurred the judgment. All of humanity has suffered under the curse of that first sin. But God, rich in mercy, sent his own Son to take on flesh and dwell among us so we could see glory and he could point the way to Father. We disrespected him and hung him on a cross and he died for your sin and mine. He took my death. He was buried and on the third day he rose securing salvation for all who would believe this Gospel message. He took my death and dispensed to me his life. He took my sin and gave me his perfection so that I could be called a child of God, ADOPTED!
This is your identity. This is who you are if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
1 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).